Topless women, photocopied fannies, lesbian action, masturbation, handcuffs, pornography and fake orgasms .believe it or not, all can be found in “America’s first sex comedy without the sex.”
In 40 Days and 40 Nights (Miramax), Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor) plays Matt Sullivan, a handsome but bitter 20-something recently dumped by the love of his life. He chases the break-up like shots at the bar, with a series of one-night stands.
Matt is a pious playboy. Heart-broken and desperate to heal, he decides to sacrifice sex for Catholic Lent. The rules are no kissing, nibbling or touching. Matt will go for 40 days and nights without even resorting to self-gratification.
Matt’s vow of abstinence inspires his co-workers to place bets that he will fail. The pot reaches $20,000 as people on the internet join the fun, speculating on which day they think Matt will succumb to his urges.
In the middle of his penance, while doing his laundry on a Friday night, Matt meets a spunky, spirited woman named Erica, Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale). Their relationship blossoms, but will Erica hold out while Matt completes his vow?
40 Days and 40 Nights shamelessly markets Hartnett’s boy-next-door appeal. But who’s complaining? If you enjoy looking at hot men, you will agree Hartnett is on fire! (And in one point in the movie, he actually is on fire.) Viewers simmer under the repressed sexual energy Hartnett radiates.
Of course, viewers who enjoy women are amply compensated by a parade of stunning ladies dressed in scandalously short skirts and fishnet stockings.
Feminists beware! 40 Days and 40 Nights was produced, directed, written, cast and edited by men, which probably accounts for the objectification of women in the movie. Women are portrayed as temptresses, not real people.
The film is set in San Francisco, a city with a historically large gay population. Yet not one character is gay. Even the women who share a lesbian kiss are simply fulfilling a common, heterosexual male fantasy.
And if you take religion seriously, 40 Days and 40 Nights may be offensive. Matt takes an impressive and difficult vow of abstinence. However, the movie seems to imply that his sacrifice is equal to the sacrifices of Jesus.
On the plus side, 40 Days and 40 Nights features an incredibly subtle, erotic scene in which Erica and Matt make love using only the petals of a white flower to touch one another.
Sex saturates 40 Days and 40 Nights. If you take the film with the same huge grain of salt required to enjoy American Pie (Universal), 40 Days and 40 Nights can be quite hilarious. But if you feel squeamish about politically incorrect, juvenile toilet humor, I would take my popcorn to another theater.
This article appeared in the February 28, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.